Gamblers Lose Another Round
T echnology changes. The stateliness of written language changes. But when it comes to basic human nature, little seems to have changed since these ringing words were penned nearly a hundred years ago:
"No sooner is a lottery defined, and the definition applied to a given state of facts, than ingenuity is at work to evolve some scheme of evasion which is within the mischief, but not quite within the letter of definition."
That was written in 1915 by Justice Platt D. Walker of the North Carolina Supreme Court. He added: "But, in this way, it is not possible to escape the law's condemnation, for it will strip the transaction of all its thin and false apparel and consider it in its very nakedness."
They're a Form of Gambling
Walker lived in an age that was still getting used to the concept of the radio, and he could hardly have imagined computers. But the state's current high court quoted him last week in buttressing its ruling upholding the 2010 law banning video sweepstakes games.
It was a clear and forceful ruling, and its words were heard all the way down in Moore County, where several so-called "Internet cafes" have sprung up here and there in recent months. They've been emboldened by last March's ruling by the Court of Appeals, which held that a 2010 state law banning the sweepstakes parlors was an unconstitutional infringement on freedom of speech.
That decision had been based on the rather tortured theory that the latest "mischievous evasion" by the gaming industry involved computers that determined who the winners were before an actual game ever started, rather than having that decided during the course of play. The Supreme Court has now wisely stripped that subterfuge, too, of "all its thin and false apparel."
Internet sweepstakes are gambling, the court said, and gambling is illegal. (The court had its work cut out for it in fashioning that decision, since it was speaking on behalf of a state that conducts a lottery of its own. But that is a subject for another day.)
Blights on the Land
Sheriff Lane Carter and other law enforcement officers are holding off on shutting down the existing Internet cafes in Moore County. Though the N.C. Sheriffs Association has said that enforcement could begin as early as Jan. 3, Carter and others say they're waiting for an opinion from the state attorney general.
But we tend to agree with Moore County District Attorney Maureen Krueger, who wondered what the AG could have to say that would matter much, since the Supreme Court is the state's Supreme Law, and it has now spoken.
"With its decision," Krueger said, "the Supreme Court has acknowledged that this ban is the law in our state."
Works for us. These so-called Internet cafes are blights on the land that prey on the compulsions of vulnerable people who should be putting their money to more wholesome and practical uses.
The sooner the industry sees the legal handwriting on the wall, stops trying to reinvent itself and shuts down, the better.
More like this story